Deadlines: News roundup 4/23/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 23 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

Another slice of classic literature gets an injection of zombies. This time, H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds becomes War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies courtesy of Eric S. Brown. Hm. I think this idea has officially crossed the line from clever to stupid (it is a fine line…). (Fangoria)

If you have been looking at all the zombie video games coming out and saying, “Yes, but I want a kid-friendly, cartoonish zombie game. You know, for kids!” then you are in luck because a cel-shaded zombie game called Zombie Wranglers is on its way! (Destructoid)

Insane bikini-clad zombie-slayer girl video game turned movie Onechanbara is getting a sequel. It’s to be called Chanbara Beauty THE MOVIE vorteX (what?) and you can find pictures and words about the stars here. Hint: they are hot, Asian and scantily clad. (Kotaku)

World’s best print horror mag Fangoria has a piece on zombie master George A. Romero in its upcoming 30th anniversary issue (lots of other stuff too). (Fangoria)

Review: Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 15 - 2009

zmugIf the somewhat scholarly Zombie Movie Encyclopedia wasn’t quite the right zombie movie guide for you, then Glenn Kay’s Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide may be a better fit. Kay chronicles more than 300 zombie movies and TV episodes from the original 1932 White Zombie to the 2008 feature Diary of the Dead.

Kay’s book takes a more laid back, film-fan approach to the genre than Dendle did, making it an easier book to read straight through. Interestingly, he starts off with a lengthy and fairly detailed history of  Haiti that seems a little out of place considering the tone of the rest of the book. Still, it’s an interesting read that offers some insight into the origins of the zombie myth in our culture and a little history never hurt anyone, right? Kay organizes the book by era, breaking it into roughly decade-sized chunks. This organization makes it easy to follow the development of the genre, lending the book some of its linear readability, but it necessitates a trip to the index to find a particular film you may have heard referenced by name without knowing the era it is from. Kay doesn’t offer a lot of detail about what criteria he uses to select a film as a zombie film, and although he clearly takes an expansive view of what is or isn’t a zombie, there are few, if any, selections that will upset anyone but total purists.

Most of the entries are given a third to half a page of discussion, with more important works (Romero’s films, for example) receiving as many as several pages and lesser works covered in one or two paragraphs. He rounds up lots of minor films with a mere mention in end-of-chapter lists. Though he doesn’t cover video games with their own entries, he does discuss their impact on the genre at several points. Each movie that gets a full entry is also rated, but he uses an obscure set of symbols to denote their rankings, making them a pain to use. A simple one-to-four star rating system would have been preferable to trying to remember what a zombie figure with a stick through its midsection denotes. Like any review, some of his takes seem spot on and others earn a puzzled “WTF? Is he serious?” He does a good job justifying his positions, for the most part, so at least you’ll know why he likes that turd you hated so much.  He wraps the book with a chapter on the 25 greatest zombie movies of all time, a list that is sure to cause some contention among serious fans. For what it is worth, I agreed with about half his list, while the rest ranged from debatably justifiable to sheer insanity.

As a bonus, Kay has included Q&A format interviews with various directors, special effects people, extras, etc. These are fairly interesting, but seem slightly out of place and don’t really add much, in part because none of them is particularly insightful. In addition to a generous amount of black-and-white photos of film posters (many of them foreign) and production stills, there is a nice full-color set of images in the center that adds to the visual appeal of the book. The index, appendices and bibliography are a little anemic, but most readers won’t even notice. All in all, it’s a nice, casual reference work that is worthy of consideration from any fan.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies author speaks to the BBC

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 9 - 2009

prideandprejudiceandzombiesGood morning, zombie fans. Here’s a link to an interview with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies co-author Seth Grahame-Smith to enjoy on your coffee break (or while you should be working — don’t worry, I won’t tell). My favorite line: “If you read through the original book it’s startling and a bit eerie how many opportunities Jane Austen left in her original work for ultra-violent zombie mayhem.” Uh, okay.

Check back later today for a short review of the thoroughly unimpressive Quick and the Undead.

Classic novels zombified

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 31 - 2009

prideandprejudiceandzombiesI’m sure you know all about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (if you don’t you can visit the book’s web page). In honor of its release, my friend Scott Roeben, creator of Dribbleglass.com, the Internet’s Official Humor Site â„¢, came up with this awesome list of other classic novels that need the zombie treatment.

The Adventures and Femur of Huckleberry Finn
Crime and Disembowelment
To Kill and Wolf Down a Mockingbird
Swiss Family Brains
The Old Man and the Sea Salt to Taste
The Catcher on Rye
All Slurpy on the Western Front
Lord of the Flies and Maggots
Gulliver’s Eyeball
Catch (and Devour) 22
The Complete, Edible Sherlock Holmes
Oliver Twist and Contort and Flail
The Guts of Wrath
The Blood-Soaked Badge of Courage
Slaughterhouse (That’s It, No “Five,” Just Slaughterhouse)
The Sound of Screaming and the Fury
Uncle Tom’s Gaping Neck Wound
Lady Chatterly’s Entrails
As I Lay Dying (‘Nuff said.)

Handy: The Zombie Movie Encylopedia

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 19 - 2009

zmeEvery zombie scholar needs reference books and Peter Dendle’s The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia is a solid work that deserves the consideration of any serious zombie researcher. Covering more than 200 movies, from the 1932 Bela Lugosi classic White Zombie through the 1998 body horror of I, Zombie: A Chronicle of Pain, Dendle does an admirable job of collecting nearly every significant zombie work in film (and a few from TV as well) within that time frame into one convenient, easy to read volume. He strikes a nice balance in tone between scholarly and enthusiast, admittedly leaning more toward the scholarly.

He starts with an introduction that provides a succinct history of the zombie in film, broken up into eras such as “The Early Film Zombie (1932-1952),” “The Golden Age (1968-1983)” and “The Mid-’80s Spoof Cycle.” Following that, he spends a couple of pages delving into the significance and meaning of the zombie before wrapping it up with an explanation of his definition of zombies and criteria for movie selection. These elements, especially the definition and selection criteria, are crucial to understanding which films are present and which are omitted. He does a good job setting his boundaries and stays within them for the most part, with a few exceptions. Notably, he says that reanimated humans that retain their personality are not zombies, then goes on to include several movies that feature zombies that retain personality. There are a few other minor “rule bendings” but nothing egregious. The biggest absence some might note is his exclusion of demon-zombies: no Evil Dead here! Wisely, he limits himself to movies he has actually seen. Luckily, this man has seen an awesome amount of zombie movies.

Dendle organizes the movies alphabetically, so it’s easy to find any given entry. Since so many of these movies have numerous alternate titles, he puts in entries referring to the location of a given film’s actual entry under the alternates. The write ups for each movie are fairly concise, although some of the more important movies (and some pretty minor stuff he seemed especially taken with) get several pages of their own. Many of the films’ entries are illustrated with crisp, black-and-white production stills, which helps the overall visual appeal of the book. He comes off even handed and knowledgeable without seeming stuffy for the most part: scholarly yet accessible. At the same time, he does offer what are more or less reviews for these movies, so they are subjective. And like anything subjective, sometimes you’ll agree and sometimes you’ll have to ask, “WTF is he on about?” I don’t want to call him out on too much, but I have to say: Shock Waves? Seriously? That movie was trash and I will never understand why anyone gives it any credit at all.

The book closes with a solid, usable index, a thorough bibliography and a couple of very handy appendices: one lists the movies of the book by country,  the other by year. These are all crucial to make this an actual reference work and they are well done here.

My only real problems with the book can’t be laid at Dendle’s feet. The first is that it cuts off before the 2000s, which turned out to be a crucial decade for zombie cinema. Of course, I recognize that every book has this problem to some degree, unless they are covering a dead art form — it’s not a real complaint, just a disappointment. The real issue is the binding, which split on my copy after relatively minor and careful use. For a work I plan to return to frequently, it’s a real bummer. I wish it had been released in trade paperback instead of hardcover, frankly. It would be cheaper and possibly less fragile to boot. Despite that issue, I have no problem recommending this book to anyone who wants a hard-copy reference work on zombie film. It’s easily one of the best available.

Edit: Added line to indicate book is ordered alphabetically.

Jailbait Zombie

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 11 - 2009

jailbaitzombieMario Acevedo’s Jailbait Zombie is based on the can’t-miss premise of vampires versus zombies. You have Felix Gomez, a lecherous, snarky soldier turned vampire enforcer, facing off against an army of rotting, walking dead. Along the way, the plot is thickened by the addition of a precocious, troubled teenage girl with immense psychic powers and a burning need to become a vampire. She latches on to Gomez, occasionally aiding his search for the zombies’ creator but mostly just getting in the way. Her family are bush-league Mafioso, which adds another complication, as does the need to keep the existence of the supernatural — including vampires, zombies and psychic teenage girls — a secret from the mortal world.

The books starts strong with a fight between Gomez and a zombie and proceeds to go on a twisty, page-turning journey that reads like a contemporary detective yarn heavily laced with supernatural elements. In interviews, Acevedo has called his genre urban fantasy, and that works as well as any descriptor for the mix of familiar fictional tropes from horror, hard-boiled detective stories and the new wave of supernatural fiction. Acevedo does a good job of mixing things up with some original ideas about his creatures of the night while sticking closely enough to the classics to not upset anyone’s apple cart. His vampires suck blood, get burned by sunlight, can control the minds of mortals, are immortal themselves, etc. At the same time, they can operate in daylight with the aid of sunblock and makeup, eat food as well as blood and even have a sense of morality. Of course, given the nature of this blog, it’s the zombies we’re more interested in here. These are the work of a reanimator who comes off a bit like Herbert West of Re-Animator mixed with Dr. Frankenstein. They’re rotting, shambling messes but the “best made” can manage some pretty advanced tasks, like driving. They’re pretty much impossible to kill and share some kind of group consciousness. Oh, and they love brains.

It’s not great literature, but no one picks up a book called Jailbait Zombie looking for deep insight into the human condition, now, do they? The book delivers what it promises: an action-packed tale of the supernatural, laced with humor and gore. There’s never a dull moment and Acevedo knows how to pace a story. Characters such as Gomez and his teenaged stalker are well-developed and satisfying, but in a few cases, especially the Red Bull-swilling mad scientist reanimator, I felt like there was a good bit of potential left on the table and I wish he’d done more with them.  I also can’t help but wish there were more zombies in the book; the climactic battle between Gomez and the zombies was great but left me wanting more scenes like it. The bottom line is you pretty much get what’s advertised with Jailbait Zombie; if the concept of a vampire enforcer squaring off against an army of zombies sounds good to you, you’re not going to be disappointed.

For more info, visit MarioAcevedo.com

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